Players Like Giannis Antetokounmpo are the Future of the NBA

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CHICAGO, USA - OCTOBER 6: Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) of Milwaukee Bucks during the preseason NBA game between Chicago Bulls and Milwaukee Bucks, in Chicago, United States, on October 6, 2017. (Photo by Bilgin S. Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

A few weeks ago on The Dan Le Batard Show, a Miami-based ESPN radio show, Le Batard and Stugotz were discussing Hassan Whiteside and his 26 points and 22 rebounds against the Orlando Magic in the Miami Heat’s season opener. A question arose and it’s one worth thinking about: does Whiteside’s game equate to wins in this era of the NBA?

They broke it down based on the simple math of possessions: if a not-so-great three-point shooting team plays the Golden State Warriors and the Warriors are making threes, then the other team will not win. Simple math. Three is greater than two.

Players like Giannis Antetokounmpo are the Future of the NBA

They continued the discussion, but then took it to a more specific point; is Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks better than Whiteside? Most could probably agree, yes. His versatility and athleticism alone make him an MVP caliber player; and at only 22-years-old? He’s got a great future ahead of him.

But there are some points worth discussing when looking at the original question of what Whiteside’s game means and what the future of the league looks like for players in a similar position.

The Positionless Future of the NBA

One of the defining traits in successful newcomers or players making the transition is that they are positionless. LeBron James is a great example of this, as he has made his way around all five positions and now does so in just about every single game. His listed position is a small forward, but not many NBA aficionados would say he plays one specific position regularly. He is one of the best examples of a transitional player, and not only throughout his career but throughout individual games. He plays where his team needs him and that is part of what makes him so great in 2017.

Antetokounmpo has transitioned into a player with a similar ability. He has the athleticism and length – at 6-foot-11 – that any team would want. His shooting range is not extremely lengthy, but he has great hands at the rim and range will develop over time. He still has so much time to improve his game. It was only last year that he really broke out and began gaining attention.

Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Distinct Skills

The not-a-skill-on-its-own-but-still-important thing that needs to be addressed first is that no one can really guard Antetokounmpo. Once he gets going, there is no stopping him. In the first six games of this season, he is averaging 34.7 points on 63.1% shooting, 10.7 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game. Those are MVP worthy numbers and he has certainly put himself in that race.

Along with this, he is a flexible, all-around athletic player. He handles the ball well, as he does most of that for the Bucks. Yet, the most exciting thing about him is that he is just getting started. It’s not even safe to say the sky is the limit with a 7-foot wingspan.

Looking at this year’s Eastern Conference so far, Antetokounmpo has a chance to take the Bucks and possibly win his first playoff series. In doing so, he could continue to seal the spot as the model player for the future NBA.

Note to the Up-and-Coming

So to answer the original question: players like Whiteside – centers that stay fairly true to position – that are already in the league will not become irrelevant, per se. However, up-and-coming players should be transitional and have a wide range of skills. Otherwise, they might not last long in the future of the league with Antetokounmpo at its head.

All statistics are from basketball-reference.com

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